UN Human Rights Council says turning back asylum seekers is violating international law
The UN Human Rights Council has suggested Australia is violating international law obligations by aiding the Sri Lankan government by intercepting asylum seekers and returning them back to the country they are fleeing.
Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said Australia was violating the rights of Sri Lankan asylum seekers for domestic political gain.
“Australia is wilfully blind to the reality that the majority of Sri Lankans arriving by boat are fleeing ongoing human rights abuses and have a pressing need and a right to seek protection,” said Howie.
“Australia is not only helping to block their escape, but is also sending Sri Lankans back into the hands of the very authorities from which many have fled.”
Howie complained of the substandard screening process to determine refugee status and there was no transparency around decisions to return people to Sri Lanka.
Howie said Australia had an obligation to ensure that it does not contribute directly or indirectly to the torture and ill treatment of Sri Lankan asylum seekers.
“Despite the risks, Australia does not adequately monitor the safety of the Sri Lankans it sends back,” Howie said.
Australia is a candidate for the Human Roghts Council in 2018 and Howie suggested there would be increased scrutiny of Australia’s record on human rights and treatment of asylum seekers.
“If Australia wants its candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council to be taken seriously, then it needs to get its house in order. Its collaboration with Sri Lanka’s military is riddled with human rights risk and is in urgent need of a rethink,” said Howie.
Homosexuality is illegal in Sri Lanka.